UPDATE: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has called the election for the Labor. Early projections show that Labor leader Anthony Albanese will be Australia's next Prime Minister. According to ABC projections, Labor Party has defeated Scott Morrison's Coalition government.
The lead position, however, shows it will more likely be a hung parliament as the Labor is yet to have a clear majority. But analysts say the Labor will be able to form a government after striking deals with minority parties in the parliament.
The 2022 Australian federal election is underway with 17.2 million Australians heading to the polls to cast their votes. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has made voting mandatory across the country with the voting precincts to open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.
Majority of Australians have already voted through postal votes or by visiting the early voting centres. The AEC has mentioned in detail a list of polling booths for the convenience of the citizens in its website and has also taken extra care to make sure that regions affected by the recent floods in in Queensland and New South Wales along with the Covid positive patients are able to participate in the voting easily.
With main focus on the House of Representatives, the ballots are being cast for 1203 candidates for 151 seats. There are also 421 Senate candidates contesting for 40 seats covering the states and territories.
Australia utilizes a preferential voting system, wherein voters are required to rank their preferred candidate choice in a ballot paper. With the rise of several independent candidates and retirement of many sitting members there are chances the election might result in a hung parliament.
The Labor or the Liberal-National coalition is therefore competing to win at least 76 seats in the lower house in order to form a government. If they fail to do so then they might have to engage in negotiations with smaller parties and independents to settle for a minority government.
There has been a rather strong and close contest between two candidates for Prime Minister. One is the current Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal-National coalition government and the other is Anthony Albanese from the Labor Party.
Australia's cost-of-living crisis and a rising inflation rate has taken center stage in this election therefore, majority of the campaigns were particularly focused on addressing these issues.
Morrison built up his agenda by slightly changing the dynamics and introducing record low unemployment rates as his main focus.
On this agenda he was urging the voters to re-elect his government by presenting arguments of a better handling of the country's economy. He also proposed a scheme that enables young people to gain an early access to their retirement funds in an effort to buy their first property.
Political analyst have marked his campaign as an attempt made to cover up for his blunders in tackling the major problems Australia endured at the domestic as well as international levels when he was in office. As per NYT reports, these include the large scale wildfires and floods, Covid-fueled isolation crisis and the increasing foreign policy challenges from China.
In case of Albanese, his attention is towards addressing the high inflation rates and has targeted the economic record of the government underlining the slow wage growth which is not enough to meet the current rising cost of living. Apart from this Albanese has vowed to bring about an improvement the "caring economy" that incorporates child care workers, educators and nursing home workers.
The Labor party has also faced criticism with several voters questioning Albanese on what his main objective is because he often slipped up while addressing his own party's policies and the unemployment rates in the final campaign days.
Other important candidates are the 'teal-independents', backed by the millionaire founder of "Climate 200." These independent candidates like Allegra Spender, Alex Dyson, Dr Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney and a few others are tough challenge for the aforementioned parties and experts believe that these challengers might even hold key Liberal seats, by the end of the elections.
Campaigning for action on climate change after record-hitting floods and wildfires endured by Australia, their agenda also expands to bring in more political integrity in the government.
According to pre-election polls, the Labor party held a two-point lead with 48% with the Coalition lagging behind by 46%. Newspoll, commissioned by the Australian and conducted by YouGov, also showed the Labor party leading the polls.
As per the Resolve Strategic survey, commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, showed Labor's primary vote fell from 34% to 31% over the last two weeks. In the same time, the Coalition was observed to have made small gains, going from 33% to 34%, the Guardian reported.
In the outgoing parliament also the Coalition managed to snag 76 of the 151 lower house seats, while Labor could only obtain 68, with the rest seven going to minor parties and independent members, as per the Hindu reports.
Concerns of the Voters
Australians have a number of concerns when they head to the polls to elect the next Prime Minister. After the cost-of-living crisis and the rising inflation rates, climate action has also stepped into the picture as the country endured devastating floods and wildfires in the recent times.
For some voters the improvement of the 'caring economy' is a major concern as it includes childcare, for others it is the lack of proper formulation of economic policies, as per Al Jazeera reports.
This election has also given special attention to the Indigenous people, as Aboriginal groups continue their fight for land rights and recognition as the nation's first people in the constitution.
Declaration of Results
According to the AEC, the polling centers will close at 6 p.m. and the outcome might be known within hours but the time difference of two hours between the eastern and western coast might cause some delay.